Eye Contact

Eli Whitney Museum

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A.C. Gilbert graduated from Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School in 1909. Gilbert trained to be a physician just as modern scientific medicine... and the microscope... displaced 19th century practical medicine. Gilbert added microscope kits to his popular lines of Erector and Chemistry sets in 1934. Gilbert was not the first or only manufacturer of microscopes for young scientists. But he was unique in his training and in the authority he could borrow from experts like Yale’s Oscar W. Richards, a leader in the microscope science of that year.

Any child today can summon images on a computer that were beyond the reach of the most powerful microscopes of 1934. But can that child see as well as his or her great grandparent did 70 years ago? The basic microscope required practice – sectioning, positioning, illuminating, focusing – that sharpened seeing. Laboring to see adds depth, perspective and understanding to seeing. Eye Contact will connect visitors to a different epoch of learning still thrilling in its simplicity.

To look at the microscope, we are posing a challenge to people who use state of the art and ultra powerful microscopes in their every day work: physicians, scientists, technicians artists. Can you transpose your work into an experiment for a 30x field microscope, the first step beyond the familiar experience of the naked eye? Each visitor to the exhibit will carry a 30x front-illuminated microscope. We will prepare panels with samples and questions to guide them into your world.

Practice A microscope is a scientific instrument. Think of it like a musical instrument: practice, practice, practice.

Focus The focus wheel adjusts your lens. Examine a penny. Look for Lincoln. Move the lens in and out. Suggestion: keep zoom at 60x.

Location Notice that the microscope turns the letter “e” upside down and backwards. Learn to search in reverse directions.

Power Microscopes move images closer to your eye. How much?
that depends on light and lens quality. Compare a ruler at 60x (sixty power) then at 100x (hundred power).

Depth of field Microscopes focus on surfaces. Notice that you will have to refocus to clearly see the surface in stacked paper.

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